Matt Kuchar on breaking seven-year win drought, anchor ban and belonging on Tour
You play with a permanent grin. What was your happiest moment on the golf course?
I'm happiest playing a match with my dad and a couple of college friends, taking a few bucks off them. [Smiles]
That's more fun than winning a PGA Tour event?
Competing out here? Yeah, that's fun, too. I'm a golf junkie. I love playing, be it in front of fans or all by myself. Testing yourself against the world's best on a Sunday? Man, that's awesome. The best.
You have top 10s in all four majors. Which one do you think you're most likely to win first?
I'd say the U.S. Open, because I'm a good driver and a steady player who can grind out a lot of pars.
Your putting stroke -- you cradle the handle of the putter against your left forearm -- is unusual but legal under the USGA's coming ban on anchored putting. Where do you stand on the issue?
Golf has always been a game where you have to control both ends of the club. You do it with every other shot. Guys who anchor the putter take away having to control that end of the club. It's not a given that [anchoring] makes you better, but it's an advantage because it removes some of the pressure. Handling pressure is part of the challenge of putting.
Read any good books lately?
My wife just put Inferno by Dan Brown on my iPad. I told her, "What are you doing putting a book on there? There's no time to read with two kids!" But I read it on the plane ride out to the British Open. It was pretty addictive.
You and your wife are big tennis fans and avid players. Have you read Andre Agassi's Open?
I didn't want to. I found it so hard to believe that he hated tennis, although everybody says it's a really good read.
Beyond talent, what does it take to win on Tour?
You've got guys with tons of talent who don't get much out of it, and guys with less talent who have something extra -- that X factor. It's a thousand different things. Hard work. Mental toughness. Desire. Loving to compete. Looking at the upside of winning, not the downside if you lose.
You're an extremely steady player -- you missed only one cut in 2012. Which players past or present remind you of yourself?
I grew up admiring Phil Mickelson. He loves competing and he loves the fans' support, similar to me. In terms of my playing style, Steve Stricker and I are similar.
You won the 1997 U.S. Amateur and had a great Masters in 1998, but you decided to stay in college. Why?
I was close to turning pro after two years in college [at Georgia Tech]. But Payne Stewart told me, "The Tour will be there for the rest of your life. You only have four years to be a college kid." It was the best advice I've ever gotten.
Once you turned pro, you won the 2002 Honda Classic, but later slumped and lost your Tour card. How did you rebuild your game?
I found an instructor, Chris O'Connell, who helped me. He turned me into the player I am today -- a consistent golfer.
Did those struggles early in your career build character?
Absolutely. To win on Tour is a thrill. But to go down to the [Web.com] Tour and battle back? I mean, I went seven years between wins -- 2002 to 2009. So I appreciate the effort and challenge it takes to climb back into the winner's circle. These wins are so much more special because of the hard times.
When I step up on the first tee, it's different than when I was younger. Then, I wasn't sure I belonged. I loved it, but I was nervous. Now? I'm confident. I'm where I was meant to be. I belong.